Novice Reflections On The Evolving Profession Of Podiatry

By Camille Ryans

      Do you recall the emotions you felt as a new podiatry student? More than likely, feelings of anxiousness, strife and unrest filled your mind. After completing my first month of podiatry school, much of my uneasiness has subsided but there still remains uncertainty in this ever evolving profession.       After declaring majors in every subject from chemistry to psychology and actually obtaining my bachelor’s degree, I had no choice but to commit to a career. (I will not even go into how many different types of jobs I have considered over the years.) Taking into account a family misfortune, I decided to consider becoming a podiatric physician.       During my first semester of college, my mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. As the oldest child, I was responsible for transporting my mother to and from her various doctors’ appointments. One of her physicians was a local podiatrist and what I admired most about him was his devotion to patient care and comfort. Unlike some of the other specialists we visited, my mother enjoyed her appointments with her podiatrist and I noticed that she was in less physical and emotional pain after being treated by her podiatrist. Her visits to the podiatrist were therapeutic and healing as opposed to traumatizing.       When the time came for me to decide on a profession, I reflected on all of my life experiences and determined that podiatry is a truly rewarding career.       To further educate myself about podiatry, I turned to the Internet to research such details as training, job outlook and, of course, economic compensation. Immediately after acquainting myself with some of the details of the profession, I contacted a practicing podiatrist to gain firsthand information and he allowed me to shadow him at his office.       My observations astonished me and I was most impressed by the variety of patients and symptoms that were treated. I applied to a few schools and the admissions process went well. As a current student, I am satisfied with my decision in regard to the high level of pride and professionalism associated with a career as a podiatrist.       Recently, an abundance of literature concerning the “new professionalism” in medicine has been published. “New professionalism” describes a more liberal, patient-centered approach as opposed to following a stringent and overt set of requirements such as a particular dress code. Some may argue that a high level of traditional professionalism is necessary and is what sets podiatry apart from other occupations. Perhaps the belief is that patients are more receptive to physicians dressed in a suit and tie as opposed to surgical scrubs.       “New professionalism” may gain popularity because it is an excellent concept that will ultimately improve patient services and care. As a result of the increased diversity in healthcare students and employees, certain aspects of professionalism are being remodeled. Institutions around the country have increased female and minority group enrollment, and a convergence of various cultural practices has occurred.       This is beneficial because the general population is comprised of individuals from many different backgrounds and diversity in a profession that directly serves the community will improve healthcare for all parties involved. In addition to improving healthcare, hopefully this new professionalism will aid in decreasing discrimination and creating a more unified profession.       A great amount of uncertainty remains regarding the functional definition and implementation of a newly defined professionalism. However, any system that helps to eliminate superficial bias, improve podiatry as a profession and improve the level of care for patients is worth considering.       An explosion of bioethical concerns will bombard podiatry in the future. Scientific researchers and practitioners must decide on solutions to such issues. The implications of being a healthcare professional are multifaceted. Not only is it important to have the engrained basic sciences and clinical skills so as not to harm a patient but it is also the responsibility of our profession to stay up to date with research and either to advocate or oppose such debates as those in medical genetics. As medical treatments continue to advance, physicians will provide the patient with optimal care while at the same time not compromising any of their personal values.       It is essential that the integrity of podiatric medicine be preserved in the coming years and that the current and future students of podiatry continue to follow in the footsteps of competent and ethical podiatric physicians.       Ms. Ryans is a student at the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine and is in the class of 2010.       Dr. McCord (pictured) is a Diplomate with the American Board of Podiatric Surgery. He practices at the Centralia Medical Center in Centralia, Wash.

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